..wind-deer and the honey-grass…

Judy Pfaff (American, b. 1946), …wind-deer and the honey-grass…, 2017, Woodcut, hand painted dye and ink archival inkjet, and clear plastic film. Walter R. Beardsley Endowment for Contemporary Art, 2018.001


Who made it?

Pfaff’s work ranges across disciplines—from painting to printmaking to sculpture to installation—but is perhaps best described as painting in space. Manipulating materials and scale to envelop a viewer, she blurs the lines that separate viewer space from artwork space.  

The temporal experiences Pfaff creates are unique. No two exhibitions or installations are the same as each contains individual elements that are repurposed or discarded as the next piece is created. This practice, in combination with acute attention to the individual architectural spaces each work occupies, renders every Pfaff one-of-a-kind. She refuses to give narrative meaning to her work instead of focusing on the physical, tactile act of artmaking. 

To learn more about Pfaff’s work, go to her website.

What’s going on in this work?

In her prints, as in her room-sized installations, Pfaff’s plays with scale, movement, layering, and surface texture. These elements combine seamlessly to create a three-dimensional illusion in the completed two-dimensional works

.…wind-deer and the honey-grass… is no exception. The piece is an extra-large print measuring 44 inches high by 99.5 inches long. It requires us to physically move our bodies in order to see every aspect of it. From a distance, colors swirl across the print, giving the surface the appearance of flowing water or rippling fabric. Upon closer, more focused viewing, fish, butterflies, and flowers appear beneath the undulating surface. Or are they on top of the surface? Pfaff’s layering of imagery creates a visual challenge for us as we take in more and more of the image. Her application of a transparent, plastic overlay as the topmost layer of this work creates reflections and refractions, providing us with yet another layer to navigate visually. 


Take a closer look.

Click on the full image of …wind-deer and the honey-grass… above to see a larger version of the work. Look closely at the print and use these questions to guide your looking. Share your thoughts with your family, a friend virtually, or with us by responding to this email.  

  • …wind-deer and the honey-grass… is a large artwork with many areas to explore. Begin by examining a small section of the work. Zoom in and explore. Once you have spent time there, pull back out to take in more of the work. How does the small section you focused on fit within the larger work? Does it blend in or stand out? What do you see that makes you say that? Continue exploring the work in this way—zooming in and then back out—until you have taken in the entire work. What did you learn about the piece during your exploration? What did you discover?
  • What colors did Pfaff use to create this work? What do the colors make you think of?  What words would you use to describe the mood of this work?
  • Go outside and spend some time in nature. Pause in one place and pay special attention to how the different elements (plants, trees, animals, rocks, etc.) interact with each other. What is closest to you? What is farthest away? Is there a moment in time or position in space that you can occupy that causes what is close and what is far to come together? What had to happen to achieve this?

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About the Podcast:

Engage with the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art by exploring their collection through background information and reflection questions. For more information on the collections, please visit the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art website.

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June 25, 2020

Art and HistoryArtArt HistoryBringing the Raclin Murphy Museum of Art to YouDigest184NatureRaclin Murphy Museum of ArtUniversity of Notre DameWomen Artists

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